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PE President Elect
ARTICLES

Singing to the Oval Office:
A Written History of the Political Campaign Song

by STUART SCHIMLER < founder@baseballhistorysociety.com >
posted February 13, 2002
American History is dictated by the word, the wit, and the wisdom of many great men that sat down and contrived our conventions and our Constitution. It is by that that we judge our nation and all its glory. But there is far more to America than the laws that were written and the conferences that were set - it is a far cry from what all of America is made up of.

The political election is one of the main things that set America apart from any other land. Our "fair and free elections" have been practiced for over 200 years now, and are still going strong. The way our congressman, senators, and presidents have been elected is always amazing to study. It is much more than putting out a platform and having people vote for you or not. The object of campaigning is to get your message across in various ways; or simply anyway that will make your thoughts remembered by the voters. One method, which has been practiced for a couple of centuries, is the political campaign song.

Songs about politics can be dated back as far as the 17th century. During the American Revolution many songs were dedicated to freeing America, British taxation, and honorary songs about American generals. George Washington was a popular candidate for these songs. Looking back at these lyrics, it is easy to understand how Washington was unanimous choice for president. The power of a song to spread throughout the country is natural. Irving Berlin's "Alexanders Ragtime band" was an instant success in 1911, and the same goes for political songs. Though not used much in the first campaign, or even the 2nd, by the time 1800 came around, it could be seen that the political campaign song would be an important part of a presidential candidate obtaining the "White House Chair".

It cannot be said that the campaign song was an important part of early elections; however, the slip to that argument would be the election of 1800 and the song "Jefferson and Liberty". Written by Robert Treat Pain Jr., it was tough on Adams for the "Alien and Sedition Acts". Paine, in the previous election, wrote songs for John Adams but was obviously upset with Adams's abuse of power. He switched sides and penned the song to the Irish tune "Gobby-o". There were many songs that followed in the following years about candidates, but none would receive much attention and were easily forgotten.

The next song that made somewhat of an impact on political elections was "Hunters of Kentucky". The song appeared in 1822, and was used in the 1824 campaign. It was a to the tune of "the Unfortunate Miss Bailey" and was written by Samuel Woodworth, author of the popular song of the day, "The old oaken bucket." No person can determine what impact this song had on the voters; but it was well known and most certainly enhanced the popularity of Jackson. It was once again used in 1828 and other songs were printed, as well, most notably a pro song for J. Q. Adams, "Little Wat Ye Wha's a-comin", which was to the tune of the Scottish tune, "Highland Muster Roll". It showed all of the horrible things that would happen if Adams was not elected. Most of the election was focused on slanderous comments by both parties, not campaign songs. Jackson would win; it probably had little to do with is song, though.

The campaigns of 1832 and 1836 went by with little use of songs. More popular were the issues of the United States bank and the economy. But the election of 1840 set the tone for all political elections to come. This was the first campaign where songs played an important role - there were many - each used to portray a certain image to the American people. William Henry Harrison wanted to portray the image of a common man that was born in log cabin and liked his "hard cider". One song of his went to the tune of "Yankee doodle", at the time, still a symbol of America. Another went to the tune of "Rosin the Beau", a song that came from Ireland and appeared in the 1830's in America. The first time a song had a major impact on the outcome of an election was present. The song "Tip and ty", which used the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too", was very popular. It was written by Alexander Coffman Ross and put to the tune of "little pigs" According to Irwin Silber, the American Review called it, "in the political canvas of 1840 what the 'Marseillaise' was to the French Revolution. It sang Harrison into the presidency."

The 1844 campaign between James K. Polk and Henry Clay continued the trend that the election 4 years earlier started. Clay borrowed one of Harrison's tunes, trying to copy off of him. It wasn't the centerpiece tune of his campaign; that honor goes to the song "Old Dan Tucker", written by Daniel Decatur Emmett; the same person that wrote "Dixie". The Whigs claimed that he was in their party, but no evidence can be found to support that claim. While, Clay was fiddling around with "Old Dan Tucker", James K. Polk was making fun of himself for being the "Dark Horse Candidate". Whig's would joke around saying, "who is he". One popular song, called "Jimmy Polk of Tennessee" by J. Greinerl to the tune of "Dandy Jim of Caroline", made fun of this situation. The song examines how it was a shock for Polk to be nominated, but in the end, everyone "must bow the knee, to ex-Speaker Polk of Tennessee."

1848 saw Taylor portray himself as "Rough and Ready", and he took the prize. Fillmore replaced him in office and 1852 saw Franklin Pierce win the election, with a song to the tune of "Nelly Bly". The elections of the 1850's were characterized by songs to the tune of "Wait for the Wagon", "Oh Susanna", "Old Dan Tucker", and "Yankee Doodle". Also, the vernacular used in the songs would be unfamiliar to today's Americans. They used certain political terms that are not used today. For example, "coons" were the Whigs and "Locofocos", which were a type of match that radical democrats once used to illuminate a room. Many songs used those terms, and people of time could readily identify what they symbolized. Another popular term used was, "Salt River". This was an imaginary river that was used to symbolize some kind of political downfall. Political cartoons would show politicians drowning in the river, and songs would tell candidates to "go up Salt River". In 1856, John C. Freemont, the first Republican candidate for president had an interesting song in, "We'll give em Jessie" to the tune of "Wait for the Wagon". The term meant the same thing as "We'll give Em' Hell", which spurned from Freemont's father in law, Senator Thomas Benton, who disapproved of his marriage to his daughter Jesse. James Buchanan had many songs, most notably was "The White House Chair", which was written by Stephen C. Foster. These songs paved the way for the election of 1860, which featured a sectional conflict and saw four men running: John Breckenridge, John Bell, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen Douglas.

Each candidate in 1860 had a slew of songs. John Bell used "Auld Lang Sine" and Breckenridge used "Yankee Doodle Dandy". Douglas and Lincoln had many tunes. The most popular one for Lincoln was "Lincoln and Liberty", by Jesse Hutchison to the tune of "Rosin the Beau". Douglas using "Dandy Jim of Caroline" stated his goals: "We'll raise our glorious banner high, 'Douglas and Johnson,' live or die; we'll vindicate our glorious cause, the constitution, and its laws: Aristocrats we do despise, for they the poor would disfranchise. The constitution is our plan, that gives to all the rights of man." Although Douglas beat Lincoln for the Illinois Senate seat 2 years earlier, this time, he would not be the winner.

There was a major controversy surrounding the election of 1864. George McClellan was against the Civil War and called for its end, while Lincoln supported it. Both parties used the tune "Battle Cry of Freedom" by George F. Root, and they both also used "Wait for the Wagon" by Buckley. McClellan was winning the election until Sherman took Georgia and the war was going to be a success. No song could save McClellan, and even though one song, by Will S. Hays, proclaimed, "McClellan is the man"; he would not be the winner.

During the Civil War songs were an important part of keeping morale. Once Robert E. Lee remarked, "Without music, there would be no army." It is only natural, because of this, that the Civil War produced many tunes that could be used in presidential campaign songs for later years. Immediately after the war, and the assassination of Lincoln, it was back to basic politics. There was a song written to the tune of George F. Root's "Just before the Battle Mother", called "Just before election Andy", about how he would be out of office soon. They wanted Johnson out quickly so U.S. Grant could step in. Although, Foster wrote a song earlier for Buchanan, this would be the first time where many songwriters decided to endorse candidates. Grant received overwhelming support from many popular songwriters. Henry Tucker, George Cooper, Emily Parkhurst, W.O. Fiske, C.L. Abdill and William Seibert all contributed with some type of song for Grant. Maybe all of these songs and good singing helped to cover up all of his scandals, but that is pure speculation.

Many Civil War songs characterized the late 1860's and 70's political campaigns. They would be prevalent throughout campaign songs for the next 30 years, but especially in the 1870's. The most popular tunes used were George F. Root's, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" and "Battle Cry of Freedom", Henry Clay Work's, "Kingdom Coming", and Patrick Gilmore's "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". What is old is new again, and for Horace Greeley, who ran in 1876, he used tunes like "Rosin the Beau" and "Auld Lang Syne", and a new song that appeared on the campaign trail, "Champaign Charlie", which Grant also used. Grant stomped on Greeley in 72'. Another big year of songs was to come - the disputed election of 76'; not the songs, nor the antics of the candidates will be forgotten.

The election of 1876 was between Rutherford B. Hayes, and Samuel Tilden. Tilden busted the Boss Tweed political machine in New York City and democratic supporters proclaimed, "Honest T. is the best policy." Tilden also used the popular tune "Hold the Fort" and republican lyricist James Nicholson decided to pen a song to the same tune for Hayes. One of Hayes' most famous songs was "The Boys in Blue" by T.K. Preuss put to the tune of "Wearing of the Green", the old Irish song. The song first appeared in America during the Civil War for the northern song "Army of the Free" and the Southern song "Wearing of the gray". Hayes won the election, but barely, and possibly illegally.

Hayes kept his promise and ran for only one term and the following Election Day featured two previous army officers, republican James A. Garfield and Democrat Winfield S. Hancock. The business side of the political campaign was first displayed, as, according to Irwin Silber, professional composers like Thomas P. Westerndorf wrote songs for both parties; he was obviously more concerned with selling sheet music than backing a particular politician. The songs in the campaign featured the normal tunes, "Battle Cry of Freedom", "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp", and an intriguing song called "When the Johnnies get into power again", to the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching home". If anything, it demonstrates the Republicans still trying to win elections by blaming the Civil War on the Democratic Party. Twenty years after the war began, this is still an important part of their political campaigning. Another interesting part of this election was to see bilingual songs. A music-publishing firm in St. Louis, called the Kunkel Brothers released songs in German and English for both Hancock and Garfield. Garfield's was called, "The Veteran's Vote (Die Stimme Des Veteranen) and Hancock's was called, "The Soldier's Vote (Des Soldaten Stimme). It seems the political songs just washed each other out; despite this, Garfield won the election 59 electoral votes, but only 10,000 in the popular vote - 48.3% to 48.2%.

The next few political campaigns had something in common: Grover Cleveland. After Garfield was shot, Arthur finished the term and didn't run again. Cleveland was a governor from New York who was known for busting political corruption. The election of 1884 was between him and James G. Blaine, a congressman from Maine. One of Cleveland's marquis songs was "Good Democrats", to the tune of "Maryland, My Maryland", a song from the Civil War. This is also the same tune as "Christmas Tree O' Christmas Tree." It contained the lyric, "Eight years ago we won the prize, but then were robbed by tricks and lies, of freedom's foes in friends' disguise, Democrats, good Democrats!" The Democrats still couldn't swallow the election of 1876, and how they believed Hayes stole it with corruption. Blaine's nickname was the "Plumed Knight" and a song was written by him called "We'll Follow Where The White Plume Waves". The lyrics were by Edward M. Taber, and a young U.S. Marine Bandmaster conducted the music; this was his first composition. His name was John Philip Sousa. The songs couldn't help him win; "Rome, Rebellion and Romanism" was his downfall. When Rev. Dr. Samuel Burchard said it before Election Day, Blaine never tried to deny the comment, and he alienated Irish voters, subsequently losing the election. The quote worked perfectly for Cleveland because he was trying to appeal to the Irish. This can be seen in a song about his honesty and breaking up political rings called, "No Ringsters Need Apply" to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne". It played off of the phrase used against the Irish that said, "No Irish need apply". Cleveland was at the helm for the next 4 years.

The Republican's countered in 1888 by nominating Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of William Henry Harrison, for the presidency. He focused on Cleveland hiring a substitute to fight for him during the Civil War. This was within the law, but it surely hurt Cleveland, especially the way it was told to the public. In one original song, written by Aubrey De Vere, called, "There are no Flies on Harrison"; there is a lyric, "Twixt a man who bravely goes, for his native land to shoot, and a man who skulks behind a substitute." Cleveland ignored this and focused on Harrison trying to ride off of his grandfather's fame. These claims are true, as seen in a song for Harrison to the tune of "Tip and Ty", his grandfather's most famous campaign song. It even says in the song, "For Tippecanoe and Morton too". Another song about Harrison is to the tune of "Rosin the Beau" and mentions how he was the Grandson of the great hero of Tippecanoe. The Cleveland Camp released a brilliant song called, "His Grandfather's Hat", to the tune of "My Grandfather's Clock" by Henry Clay Work. It is surely stands as one of the most witty campaign songs in history, but did not win Cleveland the election. Despite winning the popular vote, he lost in the Electoral College. Four years later, songs weren't a major part of the election. Harrison did he same thing over again by riding off of his grandfather's fame with a song by D.E. Boyer, to the tune of "Rosin the Beau". William Shakespeare Hays churned out "Cleveland is the Man", and it seems he was this time around. Cleveland won the popular vote by about 400,000 and the electoral vote by 135; thus making him the only President to serve in two non-sequential terms.

All the while the Republican and Democrats were winning the elections, third parties sprung up left and right, not necessarily in political terms; but each one was looking for a certain change to society. The best way for them to get their song across to the rest of the population was through songs. A song can spread a message better than any other type of advertisement, especially in the 1800's. The Greenback Party was started in 1878 and won 14 congressional seats. They mostly were interested in cheap money and getting certain rights for labor. They got votes, most certainly, for knocking the rich - in one song to the tune of "My country tis' of thee", said, "Land of the Millionaire, Farmers with pockets bare". Their songs were all put to traditional campaign tunes that normally came from the Civil War Era. Their candidate Weaver won no electoral votes in 1880. The bad turnout made some farmers turn to the anti-monopoly party. Ben Butler, their candidate, didn't fare to well, winning no electoral votes and only 175,000 of the popular vote. Another political party which didn't last to long was the Union Labor Party, their "Labor's Yankee Doodle" song could not stop their eventual demise. They had a poor showing in the 1888 election, which doomed the party. One-third party finally broke through the barrier. With songs to the tunes of "Goodbye, My Lover, Goodbye", "All the way my savior leads me" and the classic "The Girl I left behind me", they were successful. They did not win the 1892 campaign, but Weaver, their candidate, amassed 22 electoral votes - not to shabby for a third party. The Populist Party was the party of the farmers and was somewhat popular in the mid-west. They did great in a few congressional elections but after a while, the party lost power and fell into the pitfalls of time. Later third parties would come with particular causes, but not for a few more years.

The Populist Party surely influenced the campaign of William Jennings Bryan in 1896. He faced William McKinley and Gold was the main focus of the election. Bryan proclaimed, in his famous speech, "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." They wanted unlimited coinage of Silver and Gold. McKinley attacked Bryan; this can bee seen in the song "Marching With McKinley to Victory" bye M.C. Dawsey to the tune of "Marching Through Georgia" a song from the Civil War Era, written by Henry Clay Work. One Verse of the song says, " 'Free Silver' is Bill Bryan's text, he 'spouts' from day to day, his mouth and lungs and vocal chords all talk, but nothing say; His 'cross of gold' and 'crown of thorns' are always in his way, while we go marching to vict'ry". While McKinley attacked the "cross of gold", Bryan's songs were optimistic. For example, the song, "Bryan Leads the way", an original song by J.B. Babcock, said in the chorus, "The people on that day, will bury Bill McKinley, and Bryan leads the way". The results did not turn out as the expected, and Bryan lost by 1 million popular votes and almost 100 electoral votes. Bryan would have his rematch in 1900. The republican slogan, as said by Mark Hanna, was "Four more years of the full dinner pail" The song, to the tune of "Charles Puerner", was called "The Full Dinner Pail". Henry Tyrell wrote the lyrics. The Farmers were doing better and McKinley was taking the credit for it. Bryan never really counteracted with anything great. Casual songs to the tunes of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and "John Brown's Body" did not do the trick. Something more original would have been better. He lost the election, again, this time by over 1 million popular votes and also over one hundred electoral votes.

William McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt, the "Rough Rider" and the inspiration for the Teddy Bear, took his place. He was only made Vice President to keep him quiet. Nobody ever listened to the Vice President. Daniel Webster once said, when he declined to be nominated for Vice President in 1848, "I don't want to be buried until I'm dead". Mark Hanna was upset when McKinley died, remarking, "That Damned Cowboy is President of the United States!" I'm sure Hanna was even more upset when 1904 came around and the Democrats barely put up a fight, nominating Alton B. Parker, the Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals. However, he did have a great campaign song written by Paul Dresser called, "Parker! Parker! You're the Moses who will lead us out of the Wilderness". Dresser did not forget to give himself some free advertising; in one line he said, "On the Icebanks of the Fairbanks of the Washbanks far away", which was a reference to his popular song, "On the Banks of the Wabash." Roosevelt had a few songs written for the campaign, but the song that was mostly associated with this election was a ragtime march, called, "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight". According to Irwin Silber, the song was originally associated with a St. Louis Brothel and legend has it, it was played when Roosevelt charged his men up San Juan Hill. In four years, Roosevelt put his support behind William Howard Taft. Taft ran against, whom else but, William Jennings Bryan; this was his third bid for presidency. Taft had a few original songs, one that was not as original as believed was "B-I-Double L-Bill"; the music was by Rosie Lloyd and the music by Monroe H. Rosenfeld, the man who is credited for coining the term "Tin Pan Alley". Irwin Silber claims that this is very similar to George M. Cohan's "Harrigan" and that it is amazing he was not sewed for copyright infringement. This, though, was not the most popular song of the campaign. That title goes to "Get on a Raft with Taft"; the music by Abe Holzman and the words by Harry D. Kerr. The song was somewhat comical and was an instant success in sales and popularity. Bryan countered with a song called "Line Up for Bryan" by George W. Gale, but the song that most represented Bryan's bid for the white house, was a song written by E. J. Foster to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". It portrays Bryan as the president for the common man and Taft being supported by such business moguls as Rockefeller and Morgan. Bryan lost, though, by 39 electoral votes; he also lost the popular vote by about 1.3 million.

The 1912 presidential campaign was an intriguing one. Taft and Roosevelt had a falling out and Roosevelt decided to run again. But Taft got the Republican nomination, so Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket, also known as the "Bull Moose" party. The democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, who was at a time the president of Princeton University. The songs, this time around, were plentiful. Taft had songs that were against Roosevelt, against Wilson and the Democrats, as well as, songs that were the normal self-absorbing types. One such anti-democrat song was "Taft and Sherman" by George E. Fairbanks to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" and one general song was "Taft the Leader"; lyrics by M. Strauss and Music by P. Fox. Roosevelt's best song of the campaign was, "When Teddy Comes Marching Home"; lyrics by Irving B. Lee and music by W. R. Williams. It was a variation of "When Johnny Comes Marching home" and was released in 1910. The people wanted Roosevelt to run, this can be demonstrated in the song, "Teddy, Come Back"; lyrics by W.D. Nesbit and music by R. N. Lombard. It was first written in 1907 and published in 1910. The Democratic, nominee, all the while, could sit back and watch the Republican vote being split by Taft and Roosevelt. Wilson had that advantage; another advantage would be a famous whiskey slogan at the time, "Wilson-that's all". Famous lyricist Ballard MacDonald came together with George Walter Brown, whom wrote music, to pen the famous campaign song "Wilson-That's All!" There was also a song about all the candidates, a non-partisan song. The lyrics were written by Symour Brown and the Music by Bert Grant; the song was called, "The Election in Jungle Town." All of the candidates were pictured as animals. In the end, Wilson won the election with 435 electoral votes, a landslide. If the popular vote were added together for Taft and Roosevelt, then Wilson would not have won. There was a clear split - if just one of them dropped out of the race - it is likely Wilson would not have won. In 1916, he was expecting a landslide, but got a fight from associate Supreme Court Justice, now candidate, Charles Evans Hughes. He did not have a slew of songs, but "Charles E. Hughes, the American" by William H. Pease was good enough. Wilson had a few Tin Pan Alley writers make him songs. One song was "Go Right Along, Mister Wilson" by Seymour Brown, who wrote songs for Roosevelt a few years earlier. Wilson only won the election, by a mere 23 electoral votes. He ran on the slogan, "He kept us out of war", and a month after his inauguration, American joined World War I.

There was much more to campaign songs than meets the eye. Political songs were all through American after the Civil War. Besides small political parties, certain social causes sprung up and would be the talk of the town. One of the most popular social movements, which actually succeeded, was the Woman's Suffrage movement. Ann Hutchison was one of the first to bring up the idea in the colonies. Abigail Adams furthered the idea to her husband John, but was not successful in her attempts. The first, actual, movement was started in 1867 in Kansas. It was put on a referendum to see if women would be able to vote in that state; not surprisingly, it was voted down by a two to one margin. John W. Hutchinson, a famous songwriter of the day, was a supporter of the movement. He wrote the first song with P.P. Fowler to the tune of "Old Dan Tucker". They didn't forget to mention the evil alcohol in the song "Can't get rum? Oh, what a pity! Dram-shops closed in every city". Though, not the focal point of the song, that prohibition piece was mentioned. The movement, instead of being ignored, did get the attention of one man, R.A. Cohen. Cohen decided to write the lyrics, to an A.J. Phelps tune, against women's suffrage. He made his point clear, "You may seek for health and riches, and marry at your will, but man must wear the breeches, and rule the household still". Cohen finished by saying; "Let no temptation lead you, nor any wily fox, to descend unto the level of the nation's ballot-box." Women wanted the right to vote for many social reasons, most notably, to get prohibition. This is one of the reasons why they did not get the right to vote for so many years; they were against something that men loved, drinking. Women also questioned why they did not have the right to vote; they were taxed the same as men. This argument is displayed in the song "The Taxation Tyranny", words by General E. Estabrook to the tune of "The Red, White and blue". After years of protest, and countless songs, the constitution was amended and women go the right to vote.

Another political cause was the prohibition movement. The Prohibition Party started in 1869 and nominated men for the presidency in 1872. They got few votes for the next decade until 1884. They only got 150,000, but because of that small number, it may have cost Blaine the election. They had their songs, in 1884, there was one called, "Marching Through Rum-Land" by Horace Durant, to the tune of "Marching Through Georgia." The party though of alcohol as a great evil and did not want to reap in any of the benefits. The taxes on the alcohol paid for things like education but they called this, "guilty gains" in the song "Vote for Our Party" to the tune of "Wait for the Wagon". The prohibition movement was not kind to the Irish and Germans, constantly attacking them for drinking whiskey and beer. Understandably, this is why the Irish were mad at Blaine for "Rum, Rebellion and Romanism", and his inability to denounce the slogan. The party also had to show the people that they were not throwing away their vote - that it counted for something. This was displayed in the song "It is not thrown away"; the words were by Mrs. Ida M. Budd and the music by J.H. Fillmore. Telling the people that their vote counted for something and getting rid of the rotten apples in society was important. At technique which was used constantly by the ancient Greeks was also used by the Prohibition Party, that of getting Pathos. They tried to evoke emotion and sadness from the voters. One such song that perfected the strategy was "Then and Now" bye Palmer Hartsough to the tune of "My Old Kentucky Home". The tune was perfect, soft and calm - a masterpiece by Stephen Foster. It was great to touch the hearts of the voting public. Eventually, they got their wish, and the "Roaring Twenties" were dry - well, they were supposed to be.

Another movement that came to America in the late 1800's was the socialist movement. Eugene Debs was the star, as he ran 5 times between 1900-1916. The songs of the party were more about the "cause" and not about the individual candidate. Many of the songs had religious roots, sung to tunes like "Stand up for Jesus". One song, "What a Weapon is the Ballot" by Reverend M.A. Smith to the tune of "What a friend we have in Jesus" portrays just that. Smith also wrote, "Our Cause is Marching on" to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". He talks about the "toil and pains" of the workers and goes on to say, "But we will stand for Jesus whether in sickness or in health". It is intriguing to see how the radical socialists would have faith in the American system of elections to get their goals. They tried to make the system that was based on capitalism, work for their cause. The socialists attacked the capitalists, as in the song "Out Jubilee" by Harvey P. Moyer to the tune of Henry C. Work's, "Kingdom Coming". The chorus is, "The capitalist runs ha, ha. The socialists Laughs, hee, hee; It must be now the Kingdom's coming and the year of Jubilee." The socialist party would never be dominant, but there was an increase in popularity. In 1900 they had just fewer than 100,000 votes but by 1920, they were only 80,000 away from 1 million.

The next decade for campaign songs, the 1920's, would serve as the start for the fall of the popularity of this long tradition. It was harder to survive in the scrutiny of the new mass media. However, there were some songs that caught on and were popular. The 1920 election, for example, had the song, "Harding, You're the man for us" written by Al Jolson. When Harding died in office, "Silent Cal", Calving Coolidge took over. When he ran for the presidency in 1925, he ran on the slogan, "Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge", and the song was written by Ida Cheever Goodwin (lyrics) and Bruce Harper (music). His opponent, John W. Davis focused on the famous "Tea Pot Dome" scandal that happened while Harding was the president. The Song, "John W. Davis (Remember the teapot dome)" by J.J. Carney (lyrics) and P.B. Story (music) is a perfect example of Davis's attack on the previous administration. Coolidge won and decided not to go for his party's nomination in 1928. Herbert Hoover was the Republican candidate and the American Hero, Charles Lindbergh, endorsed him. The song, "If He's Good Enough for Lindy (He's good Enough For Me)" demonstrates Hoover trying to correlate himself with an American hero. The Democrat candidate from New York, Al Smith, had his own popular support. This came from the great songwriter Irving Berlin, who wrote for him, "(Good Times with Hoover) Better Times With Al". That, however, was not Smith's most popular song. Smith's most popular was to the tune of Charles B. Lawlor and James W. Blake's 1894 hit, "Sidewalks of New York". The song spread immediately and was a success. Despite the popularity of the song, Hoover won a landslide victory. Smith was the first catholic candidate and his bid for president was unsuccessful.

The American nation was suffering its worst depression in history at the time of the 1932 presidential election. The Democrats nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt. There were songs that were written by amateurs for the campaign. Some of the more notable ones were, "On the Right Road with Roosevelt" by Robert Sterling and "We want a Man like Roosevelt" by Kenneth Wardell, which stated how Roosevelt would end the country's unemployment problem. The main theme song in the election, for the Democrats, was "Happy Days are Here Again". They were definitely far away, but it was a great campaign advertisement. Roosevelt was lucky that Hoover was blamed a lot for the depression. Little kids would want to see Hoover with a "rope around his neck". He tried to fire back with a song by Alfred J. Thieme to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". Hoover still lost the popular vote by about 7 million and lost by a landslide in the Electoral College. Alfred London ran on the Republican Party Ticket in 1936. The song that was most associated with London was the Stephen C. Foster song, "Oh Susana" called, "Landon, Oh, Landon". It claimed that Roosevelt was changing the presidency into a dictatorship. It is true that Roosevelt passed more social legislation that any previous president ever did, and some of it was unconstitutional; but desperate times call for desperate measures. William Randolph Hearst supported Landon. He instituted contests in cities where his papers were read. People had to write a song parody of "Oh, Susana" for Landon. Each day a ten-dollar prize would be given out and then a one thousand dollar grand prize. The idea was a good one, but it didn't help much; however, they thought it did. Some people were predicting a Landon victory; instead the outcome was lopsided. Roosevelt released to the tune of "Marching Through Georgia", "That's why we're Voting For Roosevelt" by Thomas O'Dowd. It was really still fighting Hoover and the depression, but it was all that was needed. Roosevelt won 523 to 8 in the electoral college - a landslide. Campaigning for the 1940 race took place just three days after Roosevelt was elected when Bill Cox recorded the song "Franklin D. Roosevelt's Back Again". In 1939, still before the election, "Henry Myers and Jay Gorney wrote, "Mister Roosevelt, Won't you Please Run Again?" The Republicans nominated Wendell Willkie. Willkie did not stand a chance of winning, but he did have support. The Chicago Tribune would print campaign songs in their Sunday edition one month before the election. He had an original song bye Jock McGraw and Mary Schaeffer called, "We're all going Out to Vote for Willkie. He did win more than 10 times the electoral votes that Landon won, 82. He was also hammered in the election and the country saw the first ever three-term president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1944 the song "Keeping score in 44" to the tune of "Oh, Susana" was an anti-Roosevelt song, but there were little dissents on who should be president. Roosevelt then won for a 4th term against Thomas Dewey, but died in office shortly after. Truman took his place.

The 1948 election was mainly between Harry S. Truman and Thomas Dewey, but the person with the most interesting songs belonged to a third party; it was Henry Wallace. Some of his songs were, "The Battle Hymn of 48" to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "We Can Win with Wallace" to the tune of "Buckle down Winsocki". Some interesting original songs were, "We got a ballot" and "The Same Old Merry-Go-Round" by Ray Glaser and Bill Wolff; a tune that showed how the two main parties were dominating politics and they were basically the same. The major parties did not ignore the genre altogether, Harry Truman had the song "I'm Just Wild About Harry", which was adapted from the original song by Noble Sissie and Eubie Blake. Dewey decided not to have any songs and made sure not to offend anyone; he was sure that he would win the election. The Chicago Tribune, the day after the election, had the headline "Dewey Wins", not even bothering to check the results. In the end, Irwin Silber said it best, "Dewey had the polls, Truman had the votes, and Wallace had the songs."

The last hurrah of campaign songs came in the 1952 election. The great songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the song, "I like Ike" for Republican nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower. The song was popular and was probably the last famous song for elections. Eisenhower's opponent, Adlai Stevenson, had his fair share of songs. On was "Don't Let 'Em Take It Away!" by Robert Sour and Bernie Wayne. The songs were not as important as they used to be, but "I like Ike" was the last great campaign song and slogan, which led him to win the election. In 8 years, there would be the first "modern" election. In 1960, John F. Kennedy ran against Richard M. Nixon. Kennedy beat Nixon on the television. This was the first election that had televised debates, and Kennedy's youth showed. He still had an election song. The song "High Hopes" by James Van Heusen was popular, so Sammy Cahn changed the lyrics to fit the election. Richard Nixon had a song, Click With Dick, by Oliva Hoffman, George Stork, and Clarence Fuhrman. One of the better attempts at a campaign song Nixon was, "Buckle Down With Nixon", to the tune of "Buckle Down Winsocki", which Wallace first used 12 years earlier. Kennedy won, maybe with a little corruption, but mostly with youth and vigor. JFK was the first Catholic president.

After Kennedy was tragically assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson took over the helm. Johnson ran for the presidency when Kennedy's term ended in 1964. The song that was associated with his campaign was "Hello Lyndon", to the tune of the popular Broadway play, "Hello, Dolly". Jerry Herman reworked the words exclusively for Johnson. Johnson's opponent was Barry Goldwater, and he had the original song, "Go with Goldwater" by Tom McDonnell and Otis Clements. Johnson won by a landslide and decided not to go for another term in office. Richard Nixon would win the election of 1968 and his song was, "Nixon's the One" by Moose Charlap and Alvin Cooperman. Campaign songs were on the decline. In 1972 George McGovern used Paul Simon's "Bridge over Troubled Water" as a campaign song. In 1976, Gerald Ford hit on the country type song, "I'm Feeling Good about America" by Robert K. Gardner. The song was unquestionably weak. Jimmy Carter was successful with, "Ode to The Georgia Farmer, by K.E. and Julia Marsh. This was similar to the Civil War song "Goober Peas". Since Carter was a peanut farmer, the song was very witty; however, it is doubtful that these songs had any impacts upon voters' decisions. In 1980, Ronald Reagan used "California Here We Come" during his election. Fewer and fewer political songs were being used. There was no longer much need for them. However, George Bush used Woody Guthrie's "This land is your land". Bill Clinton, in 1992, used Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow". These songs played little roles in the election of these candidates. The genre gasped for its last breath.

In the end, election songs are no longer needed to get the message of candidates across. Television has brought the genre to its ultimate demise. In the prior election, both candidates, Bush and Gore, picked songs at the end of their campaign. They were not used and we basically picked out of tradition. Al Gore used a few songs, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," a 1974 hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive; "Still the One," by Orleans and the Fatboy Slim dance hit "Praise You." George Bush used "We the People," sung by a Waylon Jennings, John Anderson, and Billy Ray Cyrus. These songs were not written specifically for the candidate and most of the lyrics were not tampered with. It can be said that these songs were picked out of tradition. They are not what they used to be: important pieces of a political campaign that may determine the outcome of the election. Nevertheless, campaign songs are a major part of America's rich history. It is one of the backbones of "fair and free election"; it will always be with us - in our hearts - and in our minds.

Singing to the Oval Office:
A Written History of the Political Campaign Song

© Stuart Schimler. Used with permission.

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